When she arrived at the hospital, her eyelids were swollen shut after hours of abuse. It was clear to detectives that this was not the result of some random pounding by strangers as she claimed, but something far more sinister.
It would eventually come out that an enraged Martin Douglas Slover, 29, beat her to a pulp over a 24-hour period after she called police to report an earlier abuse.
Slover was afraid he would lose custody of his children. So to silence her, he choked and beat the woman repeatedly, locking her in a bathroom and then chaining her to a box.
He abused her repeatedly like this for hours, with four children present for much of the violent ordeal.
When she arrived at the hospital, she initially told police strangers had attacked her on the street and beaten her into a mass of bruises. A month later, the woman gathered the courage to tell a Payson police detective the truth of her abuse.
On Monday, Slover sat in a Payson courtroom awaiting sentence, the chains on his hands and legs rattling at the slightest movement. The victim sat opposite him, nervously gripping the hands he once broke in the beating. In the end, she said she still loved him and asked the judge to give him a minimum term.
The prosecution recommended 8.75 years. Judge Peter Cahill, with Gila County Superior Court, split the difference and sentenced him to seven years in prison.
While the scars from the incident are not visible, Gila County Chief Deputy Attorney Shawn Fuller showed the court pictures of what the woman looked like when she arrived at the hospital on May 16, 2012.
Her mouth and the side of her face were swollen and bruised, along with her entire back and her eyes swollen shut. She looked like she had survived a serious auto accident, he said.
“I think the photographs are telling to the amount of violence that the defendant inflicted upon Mrs. (victim’s name redacted),” he said. “Just looking at the photographs, it is hard to imagine what she had to endure at his hands.”
When the woman arrived at the hospital, however, she told staff and officers that some strangers on Main Street had jumped her. A month later she confessed to a detective what had really happened in a home off East Bonita Street.
Police had been called to the home several times before, usually for domestic violence.
On Mother’s Day, officers arrested Slover for a separate domestic violence incident. When Slover returned home the next day, he grabbed the woman by the hair and pulled her into the bathroom where he repeatedly punched her in the face out of retaliation for getting him in trouble. During this initial assault, Slover broke the mirror in the bathroom and tore down the shower curtain.
Slover yelled at the woman that he had to kill her so he didn’t lose custody of his children.
The woman later told officers she lost consciousness six times, usually after she screamed for help and Slover would choke her until she blacked out.
The next morning, the abuse continued. Slover forced the woman to take sleeping pills and drink whiskey.
“He told her he was going to bury her body in the back yard to buy him a day or two to get out of state,” according to a presentencing report.
Slover then strangled the woman with an alarm clock cord.
Slover denied strangling the woman with the cord. It is the only fact he disputes in letters to the court.
Hours later, Slover shackled the woman to a wood chest in the bedroom. All the while, Slover told the woman how he was going to kill her and bury her in the backyard.
At sentencing Monday, Cahill asked the woman how long the abuse went on.
“It definitely seemed like forever. Um… the worst of it… (crying)… I don’t know, I am just guessing, maybe six hours, maybe 10.”
The woman said four children in the home, ranging in age from two to eight, were awake for much of the abuse. Three of the children were Slover’s. They have been in foster care since his arrest.
In hand-written letters to the court, Slover asked for probation so he could be there for his children.
“I have three lovely kids who need their father, for their mother has passed away recently, and rather them not remembering or thinking of me being in this position during this harsh time,” he wrote a probation officers.
Slover says he had acted out in part because of was “very lost” after his wife died.
In addition, Slover said he has mental as well as substance abuse issues.
Health laws protect details of his mental illness, but probation listed the drugs Slover is addicted to: marijuana, meth, heroin, mushrooms and prescription drugs. Slover said he had been using drugs more than usual around the time of the incident.
The victim told Cahill she thought drugs played a role in Slover’s history of abuse.
“I grew up with Martin. I have known him since I was 11 years old. I know that he has a prior domestic violence history and I don’t know if that is because of the drugs and alcohol, but I know Martin isn’t what happened that day,” she said. “And it hurts me, it kills me everyday because I don’t know what happened. And I am not going to hold it against him. I love that man very much.”
She asked Cahill to sentence Slover to 3-5 years.
“This is my friend and then my lover and I know that wasn’t him,” she said of his actions that day.
Fuller asked the judge to consider a super aggravated term of 8.75 years in prison despite the victim’s request.
“The state respects her statements, but it is a circle of violence that the defendant continuously perpetuates in all domestic violence cases or a majority of them, which this court is well aware, the victims of the offense don’t want to see the perpetrator punished,” he said.
Probation supported Fuller’s request for 8.75 years.
“The defendant may suffer from mental health issues, however, that is no excuse for his actions,” a probation officer wrote.
Defense attorney Ronald DeBrigida said Slover is torn about what happened that day and is very sorry. He added that Slover has never blamed the victim.
He asked Cahill for a lesser sentence, given Slover only has one prior felony, a 2006 conviction for burglary, and has other issues.
“Often what we see with mental health issues is substance abuse issues and they compound each other. And as best as I can estimate, judge, they reached a perfect storm if you will for the evening in question,” DeBrigida said.
Fuller pointed out Slover has a history of abuse with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from 2011.
Slover wrote that Fuller was out to get him. “This new prosecutor’s out for blood,” he wrote . “No offense, Mr. Fuller.”